McHENRY – When McHenry’s senior Megan O’Donnell stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with a teammate at first and no outs in a tie game, she had no intention of swinging the bat.
A wild pitch and a failed bunt attempt later, O’Donnell looked at coach John DiFrancesca and made the decision it was time to swing.
O’Donnell swung, and the result was an RBI triple off the base of the wall in center field that gave the Warriors a 2-1 victory over Grant in the Class 4A McHenry Regional final as McHenry won its third straight regional championship.
“Just watching that ball go over their heads and drop, then seeing our girl round third for home, was such an amazing feeling, honestly my proudest moment playing softball," O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell’s seventh-inning heroics for McHenry (24-9-1) started when Amanda Manssen earned a walk after a long at bat. Haley Kornfeind came in to pinch run for Manssen and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Grant starter Caitlyn Moran. Then came O’Donnell’s game-winning hit.
“It was awesome,” DiFrancesca said. “Megan and I have been talking the last couple of days about tweaking something with her hitting, and I tell you what, it’s really paid off, she was great.”
McHenry trailed 1-0 until the fourth inning. With one out, Alex Martens singled and advanced to second on an error. Manssen came up with the RBI single that drove in Martens with two outs and tied the game. Martens was 2 for 3 with a run scored and a double.
Kristin Koepke earned the win, pitching all seven innings, allowing one run and four hits while striking out 11 and walking three.
Koepke got out of big jams in each of the last two innings, including a bases loaded situation in the sixth.
“I just kept thinking I need to throw strikes and, as long as I do that, we have a chance,” Koepke said. “I was just thinking I need to focus in those situations and help my team. My defense helped me out a lot today.”
The Warriors’ now advance to their third-straight sectional to play DeKalb at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Jacobs Sectional. The past two years, the Warriors lost in the sectional semifinal. They will be looking to take the next step this year.
“I just love this team, they have so much heart,” DiFrancesca said. “We established goals for the program, one of the goals was to win conference [FVC Valley], they accomplished that, then a regional, and they accomplished that too, I can’t tell you how proud of them I am.”